| The streets of Cape
Town in the 1700s hummed with extraordinary diversity. VOC employees were drawn
from all over northern Europe - Scandinavia, Russia, UK, France, Switzerland,
Germany and Holland. As the 1700s progressed the VOC employed more Asian
sailors - Indian, Javanese, Chinese.
Senior VOC officials behaved and dressed with great pomp. By
contrast, VOC soldiers formed a rough underclass, often involved in brawls with
sailors living it up in the taverns (more...)
The oppressed slave population added further to the diversity.
Cape Town's slaves had origins in Eastern, West and Southern Africa, Madagascar
and Mauritius, Ceylon, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere.
In addition there was a growing population of mestizos - from
the pregnancies of female slaves or Khoe women by European sailors and slave
owners. In the early years of the settlement there were cases of marriages
between Europeans and slaves whom they had emancipated. There were also cases
of slaves having illicit children by Khoe women
Apart from the slaves, there was a much smaller group of 'free blacks' - people
who had been released from slavery and Asian ex-convicts who had completed
their sentences and remained - usually because they had no means to return
home. Others were simply non-Europeans who had, for whatever reason, stopped
and settled at the Cape. There was a small immigrant Chinese community, for
instance, that dominated candle making.
There were, however, less than 400 free blacks at the end of
the century, although they dominated the fishing industry and also worked as
artisans. They enjoyed the same status as free burghers (citizens) and were
free to live anywhere in the town. It is clear that they socialised freely with
burghers, officials and sailors in the taverns.
Some free blacks owned property and were better off than some
burghers, although, in general, they were worse off than most Europeans because
they started with no capital. Only at the end of the eighteenth century did
some discrimination develop and they were legally required to carry passes,
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· Culture ·
In this period of Cape History:
Cape Town in the
The Boom of the